Participants in a long COVID clinical trial called the Paxlovid for Treatment of Long COVID (STOP-PASC) at Stanford University in California have raised concerns that some investigators are not wearing masks during clinic visits, which puts them at risk. The issue was highlighted in a Reddit post on r/covidlonghaulers, where an anonymous poster said that he and his wife walked out and quit the study last week because “researchers running the long COVID Paxlovid study have stopped masking while tending to long COVID participants.”
Concerns Over Validity of Study
The poster questioned whether investigators “risk invalidating the entire project and its data by suddenly increasing the odds of reinfecting their participants and negatively changing the course of their health.” Harlan Krumholz, MD, of Yale University, who runs a similar but separate trial of nirmatrelvir-ritonavir (Paxlovid) for long COVID with colleague Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, said he was “sorry to hear that [the Stanford researchers] are in the spotlight like this.” He added that while the Stanford researchers are good investigators trying to get answers, he understands that people with long COVID are really worried and many want to be very careful.
Mask-Wearing in Healthcare Settings of Huge Importance to Long COVID Patients
Long COVID patients are concerned about reinfection and its impact on their long COVID and health. They have generally been unhappy with the lack of masking in healthcare settings. Patients cannot wear an N95 mask during an MRI because they contain metal, so they must use a simple surgical mask provided by the healthcare facility. However, because healthcare facilities have ended their mask mandates, there is a heightened risk of contracting illness, whether COVID or something else. This poses a significant problem for people who are immunocompromised or who risk significant long COVID symptom exacerbation. While the risks of reinfection or getting infected with another disease while suffering from long COVID have not been enumerated, many physicians say that these patients’ concerns should be accommodated, particularly out of professional courtesy.
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